May is such a pretty time on the prairie. Days are milder and the humidity of summer is yet to come. May is a perfect time to have luncheon in the garden.
Often when I give a talk or do a cooking class out of town, I donate a luncheon at Linderhof for the lucky winner and 3 friends -- to join me for a luncheon at Linderhof.
Janice won (and she says she never wins) and brought her sister and her mother. When I talked to her the day before the luncheon, I told her the forecast was supposed to be nice and that I was planning luncheon in the garden.
It was clear and sunny and not too warm and so I set the iron table under the pergola for lunch.
|The table under the pergola is perfect for a May luncheon.|
It's nice to actually feel like you're in the garden. And because the class that I gave, where Janice's name was the lucky one drawn, was on herbs, I decided to fix an herbal luncheon.
|Sunny now but the table is shady by luncheon time.|
Two cloths -- a white damask under cloth -- there is just something elegant -- whether inside or out -- about tablecloths that go to the ground and a shorter lace one on top.
|Crisp white and garden herbs|
Flowers in the table -- from my garden, and lacy shadows from the trees overhead. Dishes and glasses are inside -- we don't like insects in or on our dishes. I used, of course, my blue and white transfer for the main course and F. Winkle Whieldon Ware plates for dessert.
|An herbal bouquet|
An F. Winkle Whieldon Ware sugar bowl filled with lemon balm and lavender -- an herbal luncheon should have an herbal centerpiece!
|An herbal favor and a keepsake menu|
White linen napkins in silver napkin rings at each place as well as a menu (with a picture of the garden) and a lavender "bottle" -- a favor for the ladies.
The menu -- all delightfully herbal . . .
|Ladies lunch from the herb garden|
Classic quiche lorraine, but made herbal with thyme and parsley; a salad of baby greens, roasted grape tomatoes and an artichoke heart with a dressing made from mayonnaise, homemade pesto (just a half teaspoon) and cream to thin; and corn made lines with a sage leaf baked in each one.
And when I do herbal luncheons, I love to do herbal desserts. For most people think of herbs as savory -- not sweet. And I love to do lavender desserts for most people think of lavender for the linen closet -- not for the kitchen.
|Lavender compliments the lemon cake.|
Lemon lavender mini bunt cakes with a lavender glaze and decorated with a crystalized lavender blossom.
The cakes matched the centerpiece of lemon balm and lavender -- little details but one that makes the luncheon special.
They're easy cakes -- Ina's lemon yogurt cake to which I added a big palmful of dried lavender blossoms. And baked, instead of a loaf pan in individual bundt pans -- I adore individual desserts because they look "whole" but miniature.
LEMON LAVENDER MINI BUNDT CAKES
1 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/3 c. sugar, divided
2 t. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 palmful culinary dried lavender buds
1 T. culinary dried lavender buds
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 6 baby bundt pans with Pam.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Add the palmful of lavender. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester placed in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice, the 1 T. of dried lavender and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clean. Strain. Set aside.
When the cakes are done, allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar-lavender mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lavender syrup (bought at a specialty market in Minneapolis -- if you can't find, you could use lemon juice or make your own) and pour over the cake.